Walnut Cookies

Walnut cookies (호두과자) originated in Cheonan, South Korea. They’re walnut-shaped and hefty enough to rest solidly in the palm of your hand, thanks to the thick red bean paste inside of each of them.

I am a sucker for anything sugary and these cookies are no exception to that rule. Recently I bought a bag of them from a vendor at Cheonan Station and then proceeded to eat the entire lot on my own in one sitting.

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I’ve seen them being sold everywhere here (i.e. Korea), particularly in Seoul and Cheonan. It’s always really hard to resist them. The smell of them alone sends me straight into a primal state of being where the thought of food, food, food takes over everything else in my brain.

Which is why I rarely resist eating them. *shrugs*

If you come visit, do yourself a favor and try one. It goes without saying that they are delicious.

I’m probably going to take advantage of my local privilege and buy another bag this morning, actually.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Changgyeonggung Palace (again!)

I know that I wrote about Changgyeonggung Palace last time, but, really, the area’s big enough that I could write several more posts about it and still not cover everything.

Besides, it’s spring now! We’re finally — FINALLY — seeing some flowers.

Last time I was at this palace, the greenhouse was actually sealed off to the public (for renovation work). This time, it was wide open.

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Last time there was a giant fence here! This is much better.

It was a cool, overcast day, so the warmth of the greenhouse felt immensely welcoming.

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Happy spring, everyone!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Changgyeonggung Palace

My hostel was in Myeongnyun, so my first stop was Changgyeonggung Palace.

After walking through Honghwamun Gate (the main gate), though, I instantly got distracted by all of the nature on my right. I started heading north, and before too long, I was at Chundangji Pond. It was once a rice field for the king who lived here, but during the Japanese occupation, it was turned into a pond.

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Chundangji Pond

As I continued heading north, I stumbled upon a small garden, a pagoda, and a greenhouse. The contrast between the pagoda — up on a hill, sitting under the shade of many, many trees — and the greenhouse — out in the open, shining almost too brightly under a hot sun — was striking.

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Finally remembering my original objective, I headed back to check out the palace properly. Namsan Tower was faintly visible in the distance all the while.

It’s incredibly easy to spend your entire morning here strolling around and peeking into numerous buildings that are probably older than your entire home country. That’s how I spend my morning, anyway…

Binyangmun Gate was my last stop before heading on to Changdeokgung Palace. This gate was the door connecting the king’s public and private quarters. Like many gates at these palaces, this one wasn’t used by servants; they entered using doors off to the sides.

At the time of my visit, I had no idea that’s what this gate was, but something about it did make me hesitate before crossing that threshold. Architecture can be such an odd thing sometimes.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Raccoon Cafe

Upon entering a raccoon cafe, you’ll be asked to swap your shoes for sandals. There’ll also be a locker for your other items (i.e. backpack, in my case).

After paying the cover fee, you’ll be let inside the main area. This fee may or may not include a drink (standard cafe fare — I got a mocha).

My focus was on the raccoons, but there were also a few dogs running around this particular cafe. The owners would occasionally give us grapes and bits of jerky to attract all of the animals to our table.

At one point, a wild animal was straight-up using my head as a perch.

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Photo credit: Annie Leonard

Both of us were pretty cool with it. Ya gotta get those grapes somehow!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

A Punny Sculpture

In Seoul, about an hour’s walk south of Itaewon, is a little park. Its only neighbors are a U.S. army base (which is, of course, surrounded by high walls) and a desolate overpass. And, since it’s still winter here, everything is still brown and dead.

Thanks to all of this, the sculptures were the only things that were noteworthy about this park. One sculpture in particular really stuck with me.

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“Hand made in Korea.”

…Well played, Korea, well played.

 

Thanks for reading,

Emme

The Gamcheon Culture Village

After Jagalchi Market, we randomly decided to go check out the Gamcheon Culture Village. And, after seeing that the village was nestled in the foothills of a mountain, we knew that a bus was the way to go.

Like many Korean bus drivers, this one wasn’t screwing around. Standing in the aisle was like standing at the top of a ship’s mast during a major storm at sea. We were physically thrown back and forth as he weaved the bus up, up up the mountain. (We couldn’t stop laughing during that entire ride.)

By the time we reached the village, I was tired and grinning. The grin only got wider once I began to see the buildings.

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The Gamcheon Culture Village is actually a residential area, so it’s a nice and quiet place. The main alley/pathway stretches around the edge of the valley, with many additional side-alleys to explore. One alley we found led us up to a rooftop that was perfect for pictures.

There are also several small shops (I FINALLY found a funky Korean sock store), art galleries, and street food places. The “Grand Budapest Doll Hotel” wasn’t open on the day we were there, so I left that particular part with more questions than answers. (Maybe it’s better that way.)

All in all, it was a great place to spend an afternoon, watching the sun set on all of those colorful buildings.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

The Pyeongchang Olympics

It’s relatively rare to have the opportunity to go to the Olympics in person.

So….we went.

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The big, wide-open spaces at the Coastal Cluster were a little surreal. I’m so used to being surrounded by bustling crowds and buildings that I didn’t really know what to do with all of the extra room!

I experienced the same feeling at the Kwandong Hockey Centre (which was inexplicably located about 10 km south of the Coastal Cluster). We were excited and got there early, so the openness was even MORE apparent.

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While we were waiting for the queue to open, we passed the time by talking to an older Japanese man about American baseball. He and I have both been to the Royal’s stadium in Kansas City. It’s a small world.

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It was so exciting to be inside the hockey arena. These first few pictures make it seem like no one was there, but the space gradually filled up over time.

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After a while, we sneakily moved over to join a friend in the actual cheering section. It was tremendous to be suddenly surrounded by passionate fans who were all yelling things in Finnish and Swedish.

Finland ended up cheering more often than Sweden, since Finland basically killed Sweden at that game (7-2 was the final tally). (Sorry, Sweden!! I was rooting for you.)

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Later that night, we went to see Women’s Skeleton at the Mountain Cluster. We had to literally walk up a mountain for 30 minutes to get there, but the effort was worth it. Where else was I going to be able to see a bunch of British fans screaming in delight as they watched their athletes win the gold and bronze?

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Lizzy Yarnold leapt into the crowd to hug her family after she won her second gold in this sport. It was a remarkable moment to see.

I happened to be standing near one of her family members right after that moment had passed. I smiled and motioned for her to start breathing regularly again. She laughed, put a hand on her chest, and simply said, “My NERVES.”

Ah, the British.

 

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I’m so glad I went to Pyeongchang. I’ve already used this adjective today, but “tremendous” truly describes my time at the Olympics.

(Not to mention the tremendous hats I bought at the super store!)

 

Happy Olympics, and thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Oeam Folk Village

Oeam Folk Village is in Asan, making it an easy day-trip for us here in Cheonan.

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I hadn’t yet seen a folk village in the wintertime, so off I went with my friends one fine, cold afternoon.

Being a traditional village, it was very quiet when we pulled into the small parking lot. A few ducks floated in the river, but that was the only source of movement at first.

After purchasing tickets, we made our way across the bridge to the village itself. We began seeing a few more people, but everyone continued to talk in quieter tones. No one yelled the entire time we were there.

The village is remarkably preserved. We passed water mills, totem poles, and numerous thatched-roof houses.

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We did find some locals eventually. A big group of them were having a barbecue as we walked past their area. The juxtaposition between modern cars and the ancient buildings was a striking one.

Cold, quiet, and fascinating: a perfect day spent in Asan.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Jagalchi Market

You can smell Jagalchi Market long before you can see it.

The rows aren’t narrow, but they sure as hell feel cramped with all of the people packed in like….well, like sardines in a can.

Every vendor had their own style when it came to displaying their wares, and it was fascinating to note the differences. I noted them quickly, though; in an area this packed, it’s important to keep moving.

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We briefly walked inside to check out the actual Jagalchi Market, but were quickly intimidated by all of the vendors. They bounce up to you with a big smile, gesturing at their table and menus, exclaiming that their fish was the best fish at the market.

It wasn’t long before we decided to head back outside, but I’m glad that we took a peek anyway.

Back outside again, we headed to the edge of the market to see if we could spot the Gamcheon Culture Villiage. And, lo and behold, we could!

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Those buildings in the distance =Gamcheon Culture Village

We walked through the market area one more time as we headed toward our new target. Pretty soon we were walking in an open area again, surrounded by concrete, buildings, and cars.

Still, the smell of fish lingered long after the sounds of the market had vanished behind us.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Haeundae Beach (In Winter)

Nowadays, as I trudge through the snow on my way to work, with my entire body covered in layer after layer of clothing, I can’t help but think back to my time in Busan.

It was much warmer there, for one thing.

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The view from our guesthouse

 

It was the middle of winter, yet I could walk around with a light jacket and feel perfectly fine. Each morning, I could stick my head out of our window to take in the view without letting bitterly cold air into our room.

The market right outside of our hostel was always bustling with activity. We walked past countless piles of oranges, many bright-blue fish tanks, and buckets full of sardines that were still squirming. Food vendors added smells of baked and fried goods to this mix.

My friend Annie had the foresight to snag us a guesthouse* that was right next to the beach. I was skeptical prior to our arrival.

Annie: “We’ll be so close to the beach!”

Me: “…Yeah, in the middle of winter…?” 

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Haeundae Beach

Clearly, my skepticism didn’t hold water once I saw the beach.

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Visiting this beach in the wintertime = fewer people there overall. This meant two things:

  1. It was much quieter than it would have been in the summertime.
  2. Fewer people there meant fewer people to laugh at us as we took off our shoes and stepped into that freezing, unmerciful water. (So cold, and lots of shrieking involved, but so worth it.)

And, after drying our feet off, it was time to go check out the lights.

Stay warm out there, and thanks for reading,

Emme

 

 

*King Kong Guesthouse — I recommend it